The BMAA 1988
In Flight Line, the year begins with a continuation of the debate about the safety of some of the new flexwing designs. The BMAA's technical officer writes at length on the theory of what makes a flexwing fly.
Elsewhere in the same issue, the Pegasus Q was flight tested. This received a warm welcome as a well balanced machine with a respectable turn of speed, though not the fastest of the wings around at the time.
The BMAA underwent some major developments in 1988. First, an award was made by the Sports Council of Great Britain to assist in the funding of a full time Technical Officer
Medway Microlights gained the rights to Raven wings, enabling it to produce its first complete flexwing microlights. Previously this company had bought in wings from either Pegasus or Raven International. Another manufacturer to use the Raven wing was Hornet.
Image: The Raven wing had been used by Medway and Hornet from the Mid 1980s.
A Shadow microlight was again in the news. Vijay Singhania, an experienced conventional aircraft pilot who had never flown a microlight, decided to try to beat the standing 34 day record flight time from London to Bombay. He succeeded, taking just 22 days to complete the journey. While Vijay got little press attention in the UK, the Indian media took an intense interest and the Indian diplomatic service did much to smooth his way through the officialdom of the countries he had to cross.
Image: Vijay Singhania's L'esprit d'Indian Post, named after an English Language newspaper owned by the Pilot in Bombay.
1988 was the first time that a major International microlight event took place in Britain. The second European Championships took place in early September at Haverford West airfield. British pilots took the team prize, plus gold and silver in the flexwing class and silver in the fixed-wing class. Gold went to West Germany for the open class. The 1988 competition was also the first in which an Eastern European team took part.
Long distance flights continued to make news. This year saw Neil Hardiman set out to circumnavigate Australia, a journey of some 8,500 miles. Flying a Rotax powered trike built by world hang-gliding champion Ricky Duncan, this would be the first land plane to make the entire journey around the coastline. This would include some of the worst terrain in the world.
Another world record attempt was made this year by Louis Schmitz, flying an adapted Aviasud Mistral, Louis shattered the 'distance in a closed circuit' record for hydroplanes up to 600 kg. He averaged nearly 150 kph over a 36 km circuit on the French Riviera on 11 November.
At the BMAA AGM, the Association celebrated its first 10 years. Originally known as the British Powered Hang Glider Association, it later changed its name to the British Minimum Aircraft Association and finally swapped the word 'Minimum' for Microlight to become the BMAA still working for microlight pilots today.
Membership was at an all time high, with more instructors and registered aircraft than ever before. The BMAA President, Ann Welch, presented the awards for the year: The Steve Hunt Trophy for the best microlight flight went jointly to the British team for its victory in the European championships; the Ashley Doubtfire trophy for the greatest contribution to the sport went to Championship organiser Dave Cole; Brian Cosgrove's Unsung Hero award went to Technical Officer Paul Owen, for his achievement in keeping so many old aircraft flying.